Decoding secrecy as multiple temporal processes: Co-constitution of concealment and revelation in archival stories

Ziyun Fan, Yihan Liu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How can we understand secrecy as temporal processes in organization? How can we address the inherent dynamics between concealment and revelation over time? In this article, we build on an inherent and yet overlooked character of secrecy as temporal, and explore temporalization processes of secrecy. We suggest that secrecy should be reconceptualized as processes of simultaneous concealment and revelation in multiple temporalities. Drawing on such temporal sensitivity, we apply a history-laden analysis of four examples of archival stories as ongoingly completing processes of secrecy. The analysis sheds light on the paradoxical dynamics of secrecy in three interconnected ways: first, writing archival stories offer opportunities to mask and attack the concealed. Therefore, second, archival stories as the site and process that sustain secrecy can become the site where secrecy is revealed. In this sense, as the third way, secrecy is ongoingly and fragmentally formed, producing multiple and subjective experiences of time. This article also contributes to the methodological potential for using archival stories in organizational studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1028-1052
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number6
Early online date15 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2021.


  • archival stories
  • concealment
  • organizational history
  • secrecy
  • temporality

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